One of Israel’s biggest problems is its reliance on Orthodox rabbis in matters of Jewish practice and identity. For years the liberal Jewish religious movements have been seeking to have their say, including representation on government religious councils. The JTA has this to report today:
After a Jerusalem-area’s religious council allowed a female Reform rabbi to participate in its proceedings, some advocates of liberal Judaism in the country are hailing their inroads into the Orthodox-dominated religious infrastructure.
The same story relates a Reform rabbi’s quest for a state salary:
…In a 6-year-old case now in front of the Israeli Supreme Court, IRAC is demanding that the state of Israel pay a salary to Rabbi Miri Gold, a female Reform rabbi who heads a congregation at Kibbutz Gezer. Like hundreds of Orthodox rabbis across the nation who receive salaries from the state, Gold performs all the duties of a rabbi for the liberal-minded residents of the kibbutz, who like all Israelis pay the taxes that fund rabbis’ salaries.
This approach is a mistake. Rather than fighting to receive all of the privileges of Orthodox Judaism, the liberal movements should be working to sever religion from the state.
They seek equity with Orthodoxy because they are incapable of apprehending that the real problem is not Orthodoxy’s monopoly. The real problem is that the state prefers ANY expression of Jewish belief.No Zionist is opposed to Israel’s cultural expressions of Judaism such as designating holidays, employing certain symbols or speaking Hebrew. But the approach of these liberal religious Jews betrays their own prejudice that Judaism is first and foremost a religion.The state should remain completely neutral in all matters of faith. No religious councils. No state funding of synagogues. No state rabbis.
Not that long ago, certain religious types began changing the words of the IDF’s Yizkor (memorial) reading. Instead of “Yizkor Am Yisrael…May the People of Israel Remember,” they recited “Yizkor Elohim…May God Remember.” So the IDF had a special committee study the issue. The original – and secularized – wording was restored. Still Jewish, but silent about faith.
Liberal religious Israeli Jews should work with secular Jews to abolish the entire governmental religious infrastructure. The only recognition that they or their Orthodox colleagues are entitled to should come from their followers. If their message is so compelling, they shouldn’t need the Israeli government to fund it.